The daughter of psychologist Jordan Peterson can be as controversial as her father, but says Christianity has transformed her life
She might not be on our TV screens, or even have a Wikipedia page, but Mikhaila Peterson is a very modern star of the online universe – on YouTube, podcasts and other social media beloved of the ‘millennial’ generation.
She’s particularly known for her beliefs about health and diet – she eats an unusual meat only diet, which she credits with healing severe rheumatoid arthritis and depression.
Her fame began after her father, the Canadian psychologist Jordan Peterson, became a worldwide sensation in 2016. His opposition to forcing Canadians to use transgender pronouns brought his intriguing online lectures on meaning and the psyche into public attention.
He started to draw younger generations, especially men, who sought Peterson’s guidance and conservativism to help them cope with the anxiety of our rapidly changing world. Mikhaila seems as willing as her father to offend the status quo with controversial opinions and politics.
But it’s not diet or politics that she credits with transforming her life during a very difficult recent period – it’s Christianity – and her new faith is starting to make its way into her social media.
“The reason I have been talking about it is because it was so transformative to me in August ; I feel way better; my life is completely different,” says Mikhaila. “Every day isn’t hell, and I don’t say that lightly. I wasn’t even depressed at that point and it was still awful.”
She acknowledges that her new husband played a big role. Earlier this year she announced her engagement to Jordan M Fuller, who describes himself as a ‘follower of Christ’ on his popular Instagram account. “I think that’s what changed my belief system last summer, or really solidified my belief in God,” she says.
A very different faith journey
Mikhaila opened up about her faith journey with Premier Radio’s Justin Brierley and fellow YouTuber Jon McCray – creator of the ‘Whaddo You Meme?’ channel, on an online debate titled ‘Are Millennials and Gen Z ready to believe in God?’ hosted by Premier.
Her father is a big fan of the Bible and regularly talks about it in his lectures – some Christians credit him with getting younger people more interested in scripture. It didn’t have an immediate effect on Mikhaila’s beliefs, as until last year she described herself as agnostic.
“Given who my dad is, I grew up knowing about the biblical stories, but more from a psychological perspective,” she told Justin and Jon on the Big Conversation online event.
“We never read [biblical stories] as if they had actually happened – a lot of it was the psychology behind it…[I was] completely open to it, understanding that religion has value and hoping that one day I could find some sort of support like God, that I’d heard Christians talking about. I was like, that sounds fantastic, but I don’t have that.”
Mikhaila’s path to faith took a very unconventional route, not least as she thinks one factor was using drugs. “I’m not sure how this resonates with a Christian audience, but I took a lot of psychedelics, and I do think the psychedelics opened my mind to the possibility that there was something there I couldn’t see.”
Calling out to God
Poor health as a child meant she was “pretty used to suffering”, but just before her conversion she endured a succession of family disasters. After her father became famous and the target of considerable attack for his politics, his wife, Mikhaila’s mother, developed a rare form of cancer and was given eight months to live.
After unsuccessful surgeries her mum “found God” and prayed regularly with a visitor, and she now considers herself Catholic. “My mum’s demeanour changed… she let go of the control she was trying to have over the cancer.”
Her mum believed she would be better by their wedding anniversary in mid-August and, to her doctors’ surprise, she was. To Mikhaila it was “spooky-weird” and she couldn’t find a logical explanation.
If all that wasn’t unsettling enough, her famous father then became very sick. Mikhaila was very involved in his care, and tasked with giving the public updates on his wellbeing.
“Again, every single day was so awful that I couldn’t believe it was happening.” Add to that a divorce from her first husband, and it’s not surprising she was struggling. “I wasn’t depressed…but I was crying daily, because life was really hard.”
Then last August, Mikhaila met the man who was to become her husband. He is a Christian and, when she opened up about her troubles his response was: “Well you need God…go home and pray and just ask God to reveal himself to you.” At home her prayer was simple: “Please, if you’re out there, please show yourself,” she recalls.
The ongoing impact of faith
After that prayer, Mikhaila’s life began to seem more positive. Her father felt better; her divorce negotiations and her work situation improved. She felt it was more than coincidence.
“I woke up feeling calm and kind of lifted, which I think was the Holy Spirit. I just felt a calm that I hadn’t felt before and then aspects of my life improved. Things have been up and down since then, but I’ve always felt comforted in a way I hadn’t before.”
She says it’s early days and she’s still learning. Her baby steps in the faith are going to be scrutinised online in a way that most new Christians don’t have to cope with. But she’s clear about the difference Jesus has made. “Something happened to me and hopefully can happen to other people, because life is really hard without it.”
Watch Mikhaila’s conversation with Premier Radio’s Justin Brierley and fellow YouTuber Jon McCray about the spiritual state of the millennial and Gen Z generations online at thebigconversation.show